In Gordon Ramsay's Lucky Cat, an 'Asian Eating House' embroiled in controversy
Chef Gordon Ramsay criticized a food writer last week who called a preview of his new restaurant, billed as an “Asian Eating House,” an “actual kitchen nightmare.” (That's a reference to one of his TV shows).
Among the observations that writer Angela Hui noted in her report on Ramsay’s Lucky Cat restaurant preview for Eater London was that she was the only East Asian person in the room of 30 to 40, and that the restaurant appeared to conflate Chinese and Japanese ingredients and flavors.
“Critics and reviewers have an important job to do, and it’s important that they are independent and have freedom of speech,” Ramsay wrote on Instagram. “However, the slew of derogatory and offensive social media posts that appeared on Angela Hui’s social channels, were not professional.”
Supporters of both Hui and Ramsay argued online, some defending Hui’s “lived experience of racism” and accusing Ramsay of bullying, while others criticized the writer’s characterization of Lucky Cat’s executive chef, Ben Orpwood.
Ramsay’s Lucky Cat has been included in larger criticism about approaches non-Asian chefs take when opening Asian restaurants. Commenting on Lucky Lee’s — a New York restaurant that offers what it called “clean” Chinese-American food — journalist Cathy Erway wrote on Twitter that “Lucky has become code for something awful,” referencing Lucky Lee’s, Lucky Cat, and Lucky Cricket — a restaurant from chef Andrew Zimmern. Zimmern apologized after early comments he made about Chinese-American restaurants were called “offensive.”
Lucky Cat is scheduled for a summer open in London, replacing Maze, another Ramsay restaurant that currently occupies Lucky Cat’s storefront. Among the dishes at the early April preview of Lucky Cat were a kingfish sashimi, a smoked duck breast with ahed plum and Japanese pear, and a “yuzucello” digestif liqueur, according to Hui.
Speaking to NBC News last year, New York University Prof. Krishnendu Ray, who studies food and immigration, said there are way chefs can open restaurants featuring cuisine of a different ethnicity, but that requires effort in understanding the roots and history of the cuisine and the cultural dynamics that enable the chef to open the restaurant.